Jul 2, 2008

The Nirmal Shekar Column

Jie Zheng’s fantastic run continues
Nirmal Shekar
Williams siblings through to the last four; Paes-Dlouhy pair in semifinals
London: All the arguments were about the pronunciation of her name; there was none whatsoever about the quality of her game.
Jie Zheng. Get that name right. And, more importantly, get the pronunciation right: it is Zhehng Jee, according to the Associated Press pronunciation guide.
The Chinese, of course, put the family name ahead of a person’s given name and Jie is the name to remember. You are going to hear a lot of it in the weeks to come, especially with the Olympic Games in Beijing around the corner.
On a blazing afternoon in the 122nd Wimbledon championships, Jie, world ranked 133, plotted her way past the big-hitting but erratic Czech teenager Nicole Vaidisova 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 in the quarterfinals to become the first ever Chinese woman to get to the singles semifinals of a Grand Slam event.
The 5ft 4in, 24-year old from Chengdu has sneaked in for a place in history sooner than the BBC commentators can learn to get the pronunciation of her name right.
Jie now has the onerous task of trying to get past Serena Williams. The two-time champion outplayed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 6-0 in another quarterfinal match.
Vaidisova battled back after a poor start to take the second set but Jie broke to 3-1 in the decider and then raced to the finish.
“It is unbelievable. I never thought I would be in the Wimbledon semifinals,” Jie. “These two weeks are the best of my life.”
Jie, who missed most of the 2007 season because of ankle injury in her left leg, got into the tournament on a wild card.Venus through
There is a “been-there, seen-that, done-that” sort of philosophical air about Venus Williams these days, especially if you happen to base your judgement on the volleys and lobs traded at post match press conferences.
But make no mistake. This woman still retains her hunger for the big ones — not the least the Venus Rosewater dish, a trophy she has lifted on four occasions on the centre court at Wimbledon.
Physically a little below her best, and insisting it was merely a case of her body needing some "maintenance", Venus powered to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand to make the semifinals.Surviving a slump
The four-time champion will play a first-time semifinalist from Russia, Elena Dementieva, on Thursday. Dementieva, seeded five, survived second set hiccups to beat her countrywoman Nadia Petrova 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-3.
Dementieva was led away from victory’s doors by a mind that was playing tricks, abetted, of course, by an opponent who was desperately trying to gain a foothold.
Leading 6-1, 5-1, and then up 6-4 in the second set tiebreak (two matchpoints), Elena was forced into a third set. But she opened up a 3-0 lead in the decider and then closed out the match on her third matchpoint with a crosscourt forehand.Paes at his best
Leander Paes blanketed the net with tremendous anticipation and acrobatic skills while his Czech partner Lukas Dlouhy served superbly when the chips were down as the ninth seeded pair outplayed the third seeded Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to storm into the semifinals of the men’s doubles event.
On an Indian summer’s day at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Paes and Dlouhy were in irresistible form against the accomplished Israeli pair. They faced eight breakpoints in three sets but saved every one of them while converting four of the six they had in their favour.Superb at the net
But it was at the net that the masterly Paes made all the difference as he and Dlouhy won 45 of 70 net points in a match in which the Israelis just did not return well enough when they had the opportunity to break serve.
A Paes forehand down the middle found the first break for the ninth seeds in the sixth game of the first set. From there, they never looked back, breaking their opponents in the fifth and ninth games of the second set and going up 2-0 with a break in the second game of the third.
After an hour and 46 minutes on the sun splashed No.2 court, Dlouhy served out the match.
Paes and Dlouhy will now play the second seeds, Daniel Nestor (Canada) and Nenad Zimonjic (Serbia) in the semifinals.Sania-Mattek advance
India’s Sania Mirza brought up one of her best moments at Wimbledon late on Monday evening as she went through to the quarterfinals in the company of her American partner Bethanie Mattek. Sania and Mattek fought back from a set down, levelled the match, and then opened up a 2-0 lead when their opponents, Akgul Amanmuradova from Uzbekistan and Darya Kustova from Belarus conceded the match.
Sania and Mattek won 4-6, 6-4, 2-0 and they will now play the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus.

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